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Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет
Исторический факультет
Кафедра истории древней Греции и Рима
Центр антиковедения
Исследования и публикации по истории
античного мира
Под редакцией профессора Э.Д. Фролова
Выпуск 9
Clemens Koehn
Pompey’s Command against the Pirates
in 67 BC: a Reconfiguration∗
It is a fact well known to scholars of the late Roman Republic that in
67 BC the tribune Aulus Gabinius introduced a law which was supposed
to give enormous competences and resources to one person and that
the person Gabinius had in mind, even though the name was not given
by him in his proposal, – was no other than Pompey, the most
distinguished politician of his time. The background of this law was the
problem of piracy, which had become more and more urgent in the
years before. In fact after long discussions the law was resolved.
Pompey got the command to wage war against the pirates. 1
The article is the enlarged version of a paper given at the University of
St. Petersburg on September 15, 2009. It is an enormous pleasure for me to thank
my Russian colleagues for their cordiality and the extremely comfortable
atmosphere which welcomed me. Especially Prof. Frolov, Prof. Klimov and
Dr. Kholod did everything to make my stay in St. Petersburg very enjoyable. I
also would like to thank the students for their intense questioning and curiosity,
showing that the grand tradition of Russian Altertumswissenschaften is still
alive and will see future generations. Finally, I am pleased to thank my friend
Maxim Kholod for his hospitality, his guidance and help during my stay in
St. Petersburg and the translation of the summary into Russian. And last but
by no means least I am in various ways very obliged to Isabella Petavrakis for
reading and correcting my English. English translations of ancient sources are
usually taken from the Loeb Library, but modified where necessary. The
conclusions of my arguments laid down here are put in broader context in a
forthcoming German-written article currently in print: “Pompeius, Cassius und
Augustus. Bemerkungen zum Imperium Maius”, due to appear in “Chiron” 40,
2010, where I have exposed the connections between the imperia of Pompeius,
Cassius and especially Augustus, all left beside in the following pages.
Vell. Pat. II 32, 1f.; Plut. Pomp. 25, 9-13; Cass. Dio XXXVI 24-36, esp. 31-36;
for the historicity of the discussions as reported by Cassius Dio cf. B. Saylor
Rodgers, Catulus’ Speech in Cassius Dio 36.31-36, GRBS 48, 2008, 295-318.
Clemens Koehn
Unfortunately the sources are in strong contradiction about the details
of the Lex Gabinia. The source indications about numbers of troops,
ships and money, on which the new commander could base his
operational planning, differ from each other. The ship numbers given
by ancient authors such as Plutarch, Appian and Cassius Dio vary
between 200 and 500.2 Moreover – and that shall be the subject of this
paper – the sources even differ completely about the exact description
of the legal construction of Pompey’s command and especially about
his competences in the coastal provinces of the Roman Mediterranean
There are two statements: the historian Velleius Paterculus, writing
at the time of the emperor Tiberius, claims that Pompey got an imperium
aequum in omnibus provinciis cum proconsulibus usque ad
quinquagesimum miliarium a mari (“in all provinces he should have a
power equal to that of the proconsular governors to a distance of fifty
miles from the sea”).3 Another historian from the Principate, Tacitus,
writes of the command of the General Corbulo, who during the reign of
Nero was commanding the Roman troops against the Parthians in
Armenia: other commanders as well as the allied princes should iussis
Corbulonis obsequi, in tantum ferme modum aucta potestate, quem
populus Romanus Cn. Pompeio bellum piraticum gesturo dederat
(“to take orders from Corbulo, whose powers were raised to nearly the
same level as that allowed by the Roman nation to Pompey for the
conduct of the Pirate war”).4 That means, in 67 BC Pompey’s authority
was superior to provincial commanders.5 Other ancient historians like
Plutarch and Cassius Dio are labelling the status of Pompey as
“Monarchia” or “Hegemonia”. Cassius Dio as well as Appian also use
Cass. Dio XXXVI 36a; 37, 1 (15 legates, use of all ships, troops and
money); App. Mithr. 94, 428-430 (25 legates, many troops, all ships, fort he
first time Pompey should have 270 ships, 120000 men, 144 Mio Sestert); Plut.
Pomp. 25, 4-6 (15 legates, 200 ships, use of troops and roar crews and all the
money); 26, 3 (24 legates, 500 ships, 120000 men); cf. for the resources of
Pompey’s imperium J. Deininger, Pompeius und die Beendigung der
Seeräuberplage im Mittelmeer (67 v. Chr.), H. Klüver (Hrg.), Piraterie – einst
und jetzt, Düsseldorf 2001, 8-27, esp. 15.
Vell. Pat. II 31, 2.
Tac. ann. XV 25, 3.
But whether the imperium of Corbulo was really maius is itself subject of
discussion, cf. J. Vervaet, Tacitus, Ann. 15, 25, 3: a Revision of Corbulo’s
imperium maius, in: C. Deroux (Hrg.), Studies in Latin Literature and Roman
History, vol. X, Brüssel 2000, 260-298.
Pompey’s Command against the Pirates in 67 BC
the term “Strategos Autokrator” (i.e. commander with unrestricted
competences). 6 So the big and indeed much discussed question is
whether Pompey had the same authority as the other proconsular
commanders in the provinces or whether he had an authority superior
to those in charge of the provinces. So, was his imperium aequum – i.e
equal – or maius – i.e. superior?7
The recent scholarship seems to be in favour of the version of
Velleius Paterculus. That is due to fact that in recent years the imperium
of Pompey is mostly discussed in connection with the imperium which
according to the Roman historian Cassius Dio was conferred upon the
emperor Augustus in 23 BC by the Senate, after Augustus had laid
down the consulate. Many scholars now believe that this imperium
was not, as Cassius Dio claims, superior but only equal with other
commanders in the senatorial provinces. One argument – and indeed
one central argument – is that the imperium of Augustus could not
have been superior because the Roman tradition experienced only
imperia equal with others, for which tendency the big example would
have been the commands of Pompey.8 First, we should have a closer
monarciva: Plut. Pomp. 25, 3; hJghmoniva: Cass. Dio XXXVI 36a; strathgo;ς
aujtokravtwr: App. Mithr. 94, 428; Cass. Dio XXXVI 23, 4.
The imperium maius is preferred by W.R. Loader, Pompey’s Command
under the Lex Gabinia, CR 54, 1940, 134-136; S. Jameson, Pompey’s Imperium
in 67: Some Constitutional Facts, Historia 19, 1970, 539-560, here 558-559;
R.T. Ridley, The Extraordinary Commands of the late Republic. A Matter of
Deninition, Historia 30, 1981, 280-297, here 295; S. Tramonti, Hostes communes
omnium. La Pirateria e la fine della Repubblica Romana, Ferrara 1994, 70; P. de
Souza, Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World, Cambridge 1999, 167 n. 66;
E. Baltrusch, Caesar und Pompeius, Darmstadt 2004, 30, whereas other scholars
are in favour of the imperium aequum: A.E.R. Boak, The Extraordinary
Commands from 80 to 48 BC, AHR 24, 1918/19, 1-25, here 13; H.A. Ormerod,
Piracy in the Ancient World, Liverpool 1924, 234; M. Gelzer, Pompeius,
München 1949 (repr. Stuttgart 1984/2005), 85; P. Greenhalgh, Pompey. The
Roman Alexander, London 1980, 240; Heftner, Plutarch und der Aufstieg des
Pompeius, Frankfurt/M. 1995, 187-189; J.M. Roddaz, Imperium: nature et
compétences à la fin de la république et au début de l’Empire, CCG 3, 1992,
189-211, here 193 n. 22; K.M. Girardet, Imperium und Provinciae des Pompeius
seit 67 v. Chr., CCG 3, 1992, 177-188, here 182; id., Imperia und provinciae des
Pompeius 82-48 v. Chr., Chiron 31, 2001, 153-209, here 175.
Cf. V. Ehrenberg, ‚Imperium Maius’ in the Roman Republic, AJPh 74, 1953,
113-136 (= id., Polis und Imperium. Beiträge zur Alten Geschichte, ZürichStuttgart 1965, 587-606), here 119; W. Ameling, Augustus und Agrippa.
Bemerkungen zu P.Köln VI 249, Chiron 24, 1994, 1-28, here S. 10, 17 u. 19;
Clemens Koehn
look at the version of Velleius. What could be the sense or the meaning
behind the conferring of the imperium aequum?
According to the current views in favour of the imperium aequum
thesis, Pompey got equal rights because it was supposed to be
guaranteed that no one in the provinces had more rights than him.
Otherwise local commanders would be able to veto his actions. By that
solution Pompey was supposed to have been given free hands to fulfil
his task to fight piracy by sea and land.9 Leaving aside that we have
only one source – Velleius Paterculus – which testifies the imperium
aequum construction, there are some more problems. Of course, the
Romans knew an imperium of this kind because they always had two
or more magistrates with the same rights and powers: consuls, praetors,
quaestors and so on. But this kind of equality in authorities and powers
was only applied at the constitutional level. It did never exist at the
operational level at war. So we have to make a strong differentiation
between powers in peacetime and the application of the same powers
in wartime. In war only one could command. Even in the rare case that
both consuls would be on the scene of fighting at the same time, they
had to alternate each day in commanding the troops.10 In the few cases
H. Heftner, Plutarch und der Aufstieg des Pompeius, Frankfurt/M. 1995,
188-189; F. Hurlet, Les collègues du prince sous Auguste et Tibère, Paris-Rom
1997, 42-52, esp. 48 and 290-294, esp. 291-292; M.H. Dettenhofer, Herrschaft
und Widerstand im augusteischen Principat, Stuttgart 2000, 110-111;
K.M. Girardet, Imperium ‘Maius’. Politische und verfassungsrechtliche
Aspekte. Versuch einer Klärung, La Revolution romaine après Ronald Syme.
Bilans et perspectives, Vandoevres-Genf 2000, S. 167-228, here 180-182 and
200-219 (= id., Rom auf dem Weg von der Republik zum Prinzipat, Bonn 2007,
S. 461-521, here 472-474); id., Imperia und provinciae des Pompeius 82-48
v. Chr., Chiron 31, 2001, 153-209, here 171-176 (= id., Rom, S. 1-67, here S. 2228); J.-L. Ferrary, À propos des pouvoirs d’Auguste, CCG 12, 2001, 101-154,
here 131-132.; M. Pani, L’imperio di Tiberio principe, id. (ed.), Epigrafia e
territorio. Politica e società, Bari 2002, 253-262, here 254-256; F. Hurlet, Le
proconsul et le prince d’Auguste à Dioclétien, Bordeaux 2006, 178-180; id.,
Auguste et Pompée, Athenaeum 84, 2006, 467-485, here 470-474.
Cf. Heftner, Plutarch [n. 8], 188-189; Girardet, Imperia und provinciae des
Pompeius [n. 8], 175.
Liv. III 70, 1; XXII 41, 2f.; XXVIII 9, 10; Pol. III 110, 4; cf. Th. Mommsen,
Römisches Staatsrecht, 3 vol., Leipzig 18873, vol. I, 48-49; H. Siber, Römisches
Verfassungsrecht in seiner geschichtlichen Entwicklung, Lahr 1952, 91; W.
Kunkel-R. Wittmann, Staatsordnung und Staatspraxis der römischen Republik,
München 1995, 199
Pompey’s Command against the Pirates in 67 BC
where both consuls or a consul and a proconsul were operating together,
the tasks were mostly split. For example, one consul was in command
of the army, the other in command of the fleet or, if the theatre of war
spreads over several provinces, they were operating in different
So when in the Second Punic War the consul Cn. Cornelius Lentulus
was eager to get the command against Hannibal, it was decided that the
proconsul Scipio, then commander-in-chief of the Roman army in North
Africa, should stay at the head of the troops and that Lentulus should
command the fleet if naval operations should be necessary.11 When in
77 BC Pompey – ten years before he got the command against the
pirates – was sent to Spain as proconsul with an army, his main area of
operation was the province of Hispania citerior whereas the commanderin-chief in Spain, the proconsul Metellus, held the province of Hispania
ulterior.12 So we have two formally equal commanders, who are both
proconsuls in one war but split the areas of exercising the command. It
was intended by this to avoid any clash between the two. Again, this time
in 74 BC, the senate sent both consuls against Mithridates but the tasks
were split. Lucullus had to fight the Pontian king while the other consul,
Cotta, was in charge of securing the province of Bithynia.13 For this
tradition of splitting the tasks if two equal commanders were operating at
the same scene of war there would be enough examples from other
periods as well (Samnite Wars, Celtic Wars).14
So even if the Romans always had more than one person who had
the authority to command troops, in wartime they usually followed the
principle of single command. That is precisely Cicero’s point in 66 BC.
Arguing in favour of another big and widely discussed command of
Pompey (against Mithridates), he claims that maiores nostros semper
in pace consuetudini, in bello utilitati paruisse (“our ancestors
always bowed in peacetime to conventions, in wartime to utility”).15
This targets the issue raised by the then very influential senators
Hortensius and Catulus, si uno omnia tribuenda sint (“if all should be
given to one person alone”).16 Actually, the objections of the senatorial
Liv. XXX 27, 1-5; cf. Liv. XXX 43, 2-5.
Cf. Liv. per. 91, 11
Cic. pro Mur. 33: ad quod bellum duobus consulibus ita missis ut alter
Mithridatem persequeretur alter Bithyniam tueretur.
Liv. X 12, 3; 24, 10; 45, 7; Pol. II 11sq.; 27sq.
Cic. de imp. Pomp. 60.
Cic. de imp. Pomp. 52.
Clemens Koehn
opposition had much weight. In the last decades of the Republic, the
traditional splitting of operation areas and the dimensions of warfare
came into more and more contradiction, which means that it became
more and more difficult to apply the principle of single command. The
main reason for this development was that the geographical dimension
of war had changed. In former times, there were no problems to sign a
province to a commander. His provincia was more or less identical
with the theatre of war. So for example the commanders in charge of
waging war against the eastern Hellenistic kings such as Philipp or
Antiochus got Graecia or Macedonia as provincia, or those fighting
Iugurtha in Northern Africa got the provincia Numidia.17 However,
with the development of the Roman Empire, a provincia was not
anymore the territory of the expected warfare only but an administrative
entity governed by magistrates, who also had an imperium to command
troops. So the theatre of war could stretch across various provinces at
the same time – not only the area of the currently commanding chief of
war, but also the areas of the provincial governors. The problem now
was that the principle of single command could not be sustained anymore
because often there was more than one person who had the right to
command. During the operations against Mithridates, the Romans solved
the issue by finally transferring to the commander-in-chief no less than
four provinces.18 Lucullus had the possibility of engaging his troops in
combat without clashes or rivalries with other commanders, just because
there were none in the area. Looking now at the purpose of the task in
67 BC, Pompey had to confront the same issue by waging war within
an enormous geographical space and across the borders of many
Cf. Liv. XXVI 29, 1; 9 (war against Hannibal, provincia: Italia); XXXI 6,
1 (war against Philipp V, provincia: Macedonia); XXXII 1, 2-3 (war against
Philipp V, provincia: Macedonia); XXXVI 1, 9 (war against Boioi, provincia:
Italia); XXXVII 2, 2-3 (war against Antiochos III, provincia: Graecia); XLII 31,
1 (war against Perseus, provincia: Macedonia); Sall. Iug. 27, 3-5; 35, 3; 43, 1;
82, 2; 84, 1 (war against Iugurtha, provincia: Numidia); 114, 3 (war against
Cimbri and Teutons, provincia: Gallia); for provincia as a condition of waging
war cf. Cic. Phil. XI 17: Bello Antiochino magno et gravi cum L. Scipioni
provincia Asia obvenisset; 21: ut consules Dolabellae persequendi causa
Asiam et Syriam sortiantur; Cic. in Pis. 56: Saepe enim vidi qui et mihi et
ceteris cupidiores provinciae viderentur triumphi nomine tegere atque
celare cupiditatem suam. Hoc D. Silanus consul in hoc ordine, hoc meus
etiam conlega dicebat. Neque enim quisquam potest exercitum cupere
aperteque petere, ut non praetexat cupiditatem triumphi.
Liv. per. 95.
Pompey’s Command against the Pirates in 67 BC
provinces. Although in the end it is not so obvious what precisely his
provincia was about, we can at least say that two options did not
make sense at all.19 The first is the signing of more than one province.
Since the theatre of anti-pirate warfare was so huge and concerned so
many provinces, it would have meant that Pompey practically got all
Roman provinces. He would have become a kind of Reichsfeldherr.
The second option did not make much sense either: an imperium equal
to that of other proconsuls as recorded by Velleius Paterculus. How
would it have been possible to secure a single command if each
proconsul was able to make decisions against Pompey and to veto his
orders at the moment Pompey took measure in his province? There
always lurks the danger of conflicts between the holders of imperium.
Considering this, the imperium aequum construction seems not quite
attractive. Thus, we have to deal with the imperium maius option.
However, because there were indeed some rivalries and clashes of
competences during the operations against the pirates, apparently it is
the imperium aequum construction which seems more probable than
the imperium maius construction. At two occasions in particular the
sources testify conflicts between Pompey and other commanders. The
Consul Piso vetoed the recruitment of seamen in the province of Gallia
Narbonnensis.20 On the island of Crete, Pompey did not succeed in
Vell. Pat. II 31, 2; App. Mithr. 94, 428-430; Plut. Pomp. 25, 4-6 are claiming,
that Pompey had the right to command on the whole Mediterranean coast up
to 50 miles into the hinterland (for the sea resp. coastal regions as provincia
cf. Liv. IX 38, 2; XXIV 12, 7; XXVI 1, 12; XXVIII 10, 16; XXXV 23, 8; XXXVII 2,
10). But Cass. Dio XXXVI 37, 1 writes, that Pompey was made Proconsul of
Italia (th`ς de; jItalivaς ajnti; uJpavtou ejpi; triva e[th), unfortunately the
phrase is damaged. However, it is possible that the provincia of Pompey was
indeed rather Italy than the whole costal area. There are two interesting examples
to compare: Pompey’s cura annonae in 57 BC (Cass. Dio XXXIX 9, 3: ajrch;n
aujtw/` ajnqV uJpavtou kai; ejn th/` jI taliva/ kai; e[xw ejpi; pevn te e[th) and
especially the command of Cassius against Dolabella in 43 BC, who was made
Proconsul of Syria but had some special competences in other provinces too
(Cic. Phil. XI 30: senatui placere C. Cassium pro consule provinciam Syriam
obtinere, ut qui optimo iure eam provinciam obtinuerit, […]bello P.
Dolabellam terra marique persequi. eius belli gerendi causa quibus ei
uideatur nauis, nautas, pecuniam ceteraque quae ad id bellum gerendum
pertineant, ut imperandi in Syria, Asia, Bithynia, Ponto ius potestatemque
habeat […]). So it is not wholly unthinkable, that Pompey’s provincia was
Italy alone but that he could mobilize the resources of all coastal provinces.
Plut. Pomp. 27, 1; Cass. Dio XXXVI 37, 2.
Clemens Koehn
keeping the proconsul Metellus from fighting the Cretans after they
had sent to him for surrender.21 For those who are claiming that Velleius
Paterculus is right by saying the authority of Pompey was equal, the
existence of these conflicts is the main pillar of their argumentation.22
Why should there have been the clash between Metellus and Pompey
if not because Pompey had no superior authority to give orders to
Metellus, respectively Metellus’ authority was not inferior to that of
Pompey? This argumentation seems very logical but nevertheless loses
much of its weight if we take a look at the proper meaning of imperium
maius. For it is not simply the opposite of Velleius Paterculus’ formulation
(II 31, 2): aequum in omnibus provinciis cum proconsulibus usque
ad quinquagesimum miliarium a mari. So the imperium maius
construction does not just mean that we substitute the aequum with the
maius and then the phrase must be: Pompey got an imperium maius in
omnibus provinciis cum proconsulibus usque ad quinquagesimum
miliarium a mari.
First, the authors who present Pompey’ imperium as superior do
not use any legal expression which comes near the Latin term maius.
They just enumerate the enormous means and resources upon which
Pompey could rely. Pompey is labelled “Monarch”, “Hegemon” or
“Strategos Autokrator”.23 But is this really an imperium maius? The
answer should be: No. Because if we scrutinize our sources more
carefully it will become apparent that this presentation of competences
superior to other commanders given by the ancient authors does not fit
the construction of imperium maius as found in other sources which
deal directly which the imperium maius problem.
In the late Republic and early Principate we can detect in our sources
five cases where an imperium maius is conferred to somebody by the
authorities – senate or emperor – or is at least discussed to be conferred:
• In 57 BC, Pompey was supposed to get a maius imperium in
provinciis quam sit eorum qui eas obtineant to secure the grain
supply in Rome, which, however, was rejected by the senate
(“authority in the provinces superior to that of their governors”, Cic.
Att. IV 1, 7).
• In 43 BC, Cassius was supposed to get the right utique,
quamcumque in provinciam eius belli gerendi causa aduenerit,
Plut. Pomp. 29; App. Sic. 6; Cass. Dio XXXVI 17a; 18f.; 45, 1; Flor. I 42;
Liv. per. 99; Vell. Pat. II 34, 2.
Cf. n. 6.
Plut. Pomp. 25, 3; Cass. Dio XXXVI 36a; App. Mithr. 94, 428.
Pompey’s Command against the Pirates in 67 BC
ibi maius imperium C. Cassi pro consule sit quam eius erit qui
eam provinciam tum obtinebit, cum C. Cassius pro consule in
eam provinciam uenerit to fight Dolabella in the east but this was
equally rejected by the senate (“into whatever province he shall
come for carrying on of that war, there Caius Cassius, proconsul,
shall have a greater authority than the man who shall then hold that
province when Caius Cassius proconsul comes into that province”,
Cic. Phil. XI 30).
• In 23 BC, the senate gave to Augustus ejn tw`/ uJp hkovw/ to;
plei`on tw`n eJkastacovqi ajrcovntwn ijscuvein ejpevtreyen (“in
the subject territory authority superior to that of the governor in
each instance”, Cass. Dio LIII 32, 5).
• In 13 BC, Agrippa was rewarded by Augustus mei`z on tw`n
ejkastacovqi e[xw th`ς jItalivaς ajrcovntwn ijscu`sai (“with
greater authority than the officials outside Italy ordinarily possessed”,
Cass. Dio LIV 28, 1), an authority described by Augustus himself in
his funeral speech for Agrippa in 12 BC: eijς a}ς dhvp otev se
uJparceivaς ta; koina; tw`n JRwmaivwn ejfeivlkoito, mhqeno;ς ejn
ejkeivnaiς <eij~nai> ejxousivan meivzwn th`ς sh`ς (“To whichever
province the Roman state might summon you, no one there would
have power greater than yours”, P.Köln VI 249, 9-10).
• In 17 AD, Germanicus got the right, ut in quamcumque
provinciam venisset, maius ei imperium quam ei, qui eam
provinciam proconsule optineret, dum in omni re maius imperium
Tiberio Caesari Augusto quam Germanico Caesari esset (“in
whichever province he would come he would have greater power
than the person who was in charge of the province”, CIL II² 5, 900,
27-29; cf. Tac. ann. II 43, 2).
Of course we have to consider that three out of five examples
belong to the early Principate. But it is significant that in the two most
detailed sources – written in Latin – the construction of imperium
maius was not an imperium superior to all others in charge of command
in the provinces. This kind of imperium maius was indeed first
conferred to Augustus after he had laid down the consulate in summer
of 23 BC, a problem which does not matter here. From the proposal
of Cicero for Cassius and the Lex for Germanicus clearly follows
that the original construction of imperium maius meant that someone
should have greater power only in the provincia to which he comes
in person. This is the decisive point on which the following
argumentation is based. So even if someone’s area of task is a very
Clemens Koehn
large one comprising several provinces at once – and that happened
indeed in the case of Cassius 43 BC (who was waging war in the
eastern provinces of Syria, Asia, Bithynia and Pontus) and Germanicus
in 17 AD (who was charged by Tiberius to administer and control the
so-called transmarinae provinciae i.e. the eastern provinces), – and
this is true also of Agrippa between 23 and 13 BC (who was the
commissioner of Augustus in eastern as well as western provinces) –
so even the commission concerns many provinces at once, the
imperium superior to provincial commanders is only valid in the
province where the holder of the imperium is present in person. In
consequence, one has to conclude that if Pompey’s imperium was a
superior one, it then must have been superior only in the province
where he himself was operating.
To verify or to make at least acceptable our assumption, we have to
look again at the sources and how they present the actions of Pompey
during the pirate war. I will focus on the events at Crete. What was
going on? Since 69 BC, Q. Metellus first as consul then as proconsul
launched a massive campaign against the pirates there, which came to
be very successful. One base after another was conquered by Metellus.
Hearing how captured pirates were treated by Pompey, the Cretans
sent an embassy who was supposed to offer surrender to him while he
was operating in Asia. Pompey accepted this offer and gave the order
to Metellus to cease fighting, an order which Metellus refused. At the
same time, he announced that he would show up in person. Since he
could not do so, Pompey then sent one of his staff officers by name of
Octavius who took his orders so seriously that he even fought on the
side of the Cretans against the troops of Metellus. This angered Metellus,
who then wrote a letter to Pompey declaring that Pompey’s only aim
would be to steal his fame. Pompey replied that he had no other option
to do so. A final clash between the commanders was only forestalled
by the fact that Pompey got a new command against Mithridates. But
he succeeded in preventing Metellus to hold a triumph in Rome for
many years.24
Before we should have a closer look at the sources, we have to
recognize two important points: On the one hand, Pompey and Metellus
never met in person, so their rivalry occurred over a long distance:
Metellus was on Crete, Pompey in Asia Minor. On the other hand, in
The main sources for the Cretan episode are: Cic. de imp. Pomp 46; Plut.
Pomp. 29; App. Sic 6; Cass. Dio XXXVI 17a; 18f.; 45, 1; Flor. I 42; Liv. per. 99;
Vell. Pat. II 34, 2.
Pompey’s Command against the Pirates in 67 BC
those provinces where Pompey operated in person we do not hear
about rivalries with other commanders, although for example in Cilicia
Q. Marcius Rex as proconsul was in command of three legions and
naval units who operated against pirates as well. Cilicia was the last
zone of fighting where the Roman troops under the command of
Pompey conquered the last strongholds of the pirates. One very
probable conclusion you can draw from these observations is that
Pompey’s imperium must be connected with the personal appearance
of its holder. Otherwise it is hard to understand why the same
proconsul Q. Marcius Rex who denied any cooperation with Lucullus
against Mithridates the year before, suddenly in 67 should have been
cooperating with Pompey without any quarrels if not Pompey had an
authority superior to him. 25
If we have a closer look at the relevant sources regarding the Cretan
affairs, it is first striking that Pompey always has the intention to go to
Crete personally. The simple question is: Why? In case of an imperium
aequum he would have been able to give orders in all provinces within
a zone of 50 miles from the coast, and Crete fit well into this sphere of
command. The same is true if his imperium was superior to that of
other commanders in that zone. In fact, the permanent intention to go
to Crete makes sense only if this was the only way to impose his will on
Metellus. But because Pompey is engaged in operations in other parts
of the Roman Empire, the only thing he can do at the moment is to
write to Metellus announcing his coming and ordering him to withdraw
from Crete before he would arrive. This is the information provided by
Appian.26 Cassius Dio has similar facts, saying that Metellus was eager
to injure the pirates as much as possible before Pompey would arrive
on Crete.27 Metellus knew that Pompey had no means to force him as
long as he did not show up in person on the island. What would have
happened in that case we can only guess because by taking over a new
For Q. Marcius Rex cf. Cass. Dio XXXVI 15, 1; 17, 2 and T.R.S. Broughton,
The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, 2 vol., New York 1951-1952, here vol.
II, 146.
App. Sic. 6, 6: kai; oiJ Krh`teς ejς Pomphvion Mavgnon […] pevmyanteς
e[fasan eJa utou;ς ejlqovn ti ejpitrevyein. oJ de; ajscovlwς tovte e[cwn ejkevleue to;n
Mevtellon, wJς ouj devon e[ti polemei`n toi`ς eJautou;ς ejpitrevpousin, ejxanivstasqai
th`ς nhvsou· oJ de; ouj frontivsaς ejpevmeine tw/` polevmw/. Cf. Plut. Pomp. 29, 2:
Pompeius e[grafe tw/` Metevllw/ kwluvwn to;n povlemon.
Cass. Dio XXXVI 18, 1: : kakw`saiv te aujtou;ς pri;n to;n Pomphvion ejpelqei`n
Clemens Koehn
command Pompey renounced coming to Crete. The clearest evidence
that the imperium of Pompey was bound on an appearance in person is
found in Florus, next to Appian one of the central sources for the events
of the pirate war of 67 BC. “Pompey”, we read, “although while in
command in Asia had sent his officer Octavius to Crete, was outside
his sphere of command powerless to act in the matter and so Metellus
exercised the rights of the conqueror with all the greater severity”.28
So Metellus could refuse Pompey’s orders not because his own
competences were equal to those of Pompey, but because Pompey
had no competences at all to give orders to him. Pompey could do so
only in case he was at the scene by himself. As long as he did not show
up in person on Crete there was no need for Metellus to cease with his
own operations against the pirates. From this perspective, the conflict
between Pompey and Metellus about whether carrying on to fight the
pirates or accepting their surrender is not an argument against an
imperium maius of Pompey, simply because this has never had any
force outside the province of his stay. And because Pompey nevertheless
interfered by sending his officer, it was he who was to blame for having
exceeded his authority and powers.
Only now can we understand why even his closest friends were
displeased by his behaviour in the Cretan affairs, as Plutarch tells
us. 29 There was much upset in Rome about these affairs. Very
interestingly not only those members of the Roman society who in
general were not well minded to Pompey were angry about his
behaviour and the handling of that matter, even his own circle was
not amused. If Pompey had an imperium equal to Metellus, then of
course it would be understandable that his political enemies made
charges against him. But it would not be understandable why his own
friends should be so upset because he would have had the right and
power to do so. But if, as I argue, his imperium was not applicable to
the Cretan affairs as long as he did not show up there in person,
Pompey simply did exceed his competences. And in this case the
reaction of his friends is totally comprehensible.
Flor. I 42, 5f.: [Metellus] deinde totam insulam igni ferroque populatus
intra castella et urbes redegit [...] adeoque saeve in captivos consulebatur
ut veneno se plerique conficerent, alii deditionem suam ad Pompeium
absentem mitterent. et cum ille res in Asia gerens eo quoque praefectum
misisset Antonium (sc. Octavius), in aliena provincia inritus fuit eoque
infestior Metellus in hostes ius victoris exercuit [...].
Plut. Pomp. 29, 1.
Pompey’s Command against the Pirates in 67 BC
One final question: Why was the imperium maius constructed in
a way that the holder could use it only in the province where he was
present by himself? One has to look onto the peculiarities of the Roman
hierarchy, I think, whose main purpose was to prevent one person to
gain such power that he could outrule all other citizens. The new
situation to fight an enemy not only at one scene of war or in one
province, but across the border of many provinces, required new
solutions. Until then, the Romans had taken only half-hearted measures
against piracy. Sure, in 74 BC M. Antonius got a command which
enabled him to wage war in all provinces within 50 miles from the
coast. 30 But he had to rely mainly on the resources of the Roman
allies and furthermore had only equal rights to other commanders and
so his campaign failed to be successful. 31 The moment the Romans
decided to deploy all their personal and material resources to fight
piracy, they almost automatically had to secure a single command of
these immense resources. Otherwise a new failure would happen.
Thus the construction to give superior authority to the commanderin-chief exactly in the area where the commander was leading the
operations in person, was a very smooth one. You did not have to
break with the traditions of the Roman constitution and at the same
time you were able to deploy all your forces under one single command.
That the great Pompey was not content with that solution is another
issue. Perhaps this was the reason why against Mithridates in 66 BC
the Romans did put him in charge of three provinces at once.32
Клеменс Кён
Командование Помпея в войне с пиратами в 67 г. до н. э.:
Данная статья посвящена весьма дискутируемому в науке вопросу о правовой основе командования, полученного Помпеем для
борьбы с пиратами в 67 г. до н. э. В статье показывается, что
командование Помпея не было сопряжено с получением им имVell. Pat. II 31, 3.
E. Maróti, On the Problem of M. Antonius Creticus’ imperium infinitum,
ActAntHun 19, 1971, 259-272; P. de Souza, Piracy in the Graeco-Roman World,
Cambridge 1999, 141-148.
Cf. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. II, 155.
Clemens Koehn
перия aequum, означающего, что он имел ту же власть, что и проконсулы, командующие в провинциях, и империя maius, означающего, что он имел власть бульшую по сравнению с теми, кто
управлял провинциями. Проанализировав некоторые эпизоды войны с пиратами, автор доказывает, что империй Помпея был maius,
но в том смысле, что Помпей должен был иметь большую власть
только в провинции, где он появлялся лично. Цель этого состояла
в том, чтобы решить проблему ведения войны в разных провинциях в одно и то же время, где и главнокомандующий, и правитель-проконсул имели право осуществлять командование.